Many people make way more mistakes than they admit. I do too. Well, as long as you possess the human body, you’re prone to make mistakes once in a while. To err is human remember?
Since no one wants to make mistakes, how would you feel if we showed you how to avoid not one, not two, but up to ten (10) of the worst mistakes freelance web designers make? It would feel great, wouldn’t it? Oh well, here we go.
Failure to Promote Yourself
Many web designers working in agencies and firms do just that, design websites all day long and do nothing else. The firm takes care of marketing among other administrative tasks. The freelance world is a bit different. You’re in charge of marketing and all other administrative duties.
Many breakout freelancers might need time to come to terms with this, but the earlier you promote your services, the better. Start a website, showcase your work and share tips and whatnot in the blog section. Promote yourself in social media or Google Ads if you have a budget for promotion.
Just promote the hell out of yourself. Learn something about online promotion if you’re just starting out.
Accepting Every Damn Project…
…that comes your way is another grave mistake made by many a freelance web designer. After promoting your services, inquiries started trickling in. This was exciting and since you didn’t want to disappoint anyone or let the money walk out the door, you took on as many projects as your schedule could possibly handle and then some.
Productivity quickly took a nose dive and you hated your job for a while (or at least for a few days until you snapped out of the funk). You learned your lesson. Now, you pick only the best clients and don’t go around making excuses for clients who don’t make the cut.
If this does not sounds like you, you’re your own boss now remember? You call the shots now. You have the right to refuse a project on the basis you don’t like the client’s middle name. It’s all up to you boss. All up to you.
Not Knowing Your Worth
Not knowing how much your skills are worth and the value you bring to the table as a web designer can greatly slow down professional advancement in the freelance domain. Why is it difficult for many designers (across the globe) to determine the true worth of their skills. I mean, why do so many web designers charge extremely discounted rates? Is it because the clients want to save money? Do web designers do this to gain competitive edge?
Have you been to those job boards that make you literally cringe? You know, those boards with freelancers and clients who disappear in the middle of a project.
To begin with, clients don’t want to “save” money. They want the best return on investment. They want to believe (or know for a fact) that if they pay you an x amount of dollars to build them a website, it’s the best website x dollars can buy. How then do you establish your worth early on in your freelance web design career? Start by evaluating your skills, talents and experience.
A deal is set in motion when the client contacts you. It’s then your responsibility to keep the conversation going until the deal is done. Many freelancer who are not versed in effective online communication fail long before the client talks money.
If you are not straight forward in your communication, the client will see through the shroud and fire you!
If you’re wordy without necessarily answering your client’s question, it will not end very well for you. Get straight to the point and leave fluff for your personal blog.
If you are too eager, negative or rude in your correspondence, the client will open a new tab and head over to the competition.
If you take ages to respond to email, you will lose clients. Set specific times of the day to check mail and email. I usually check my email at 1200 hrs and 1600 hrs. Keeps you focused. You only need to check your email once or twice per day.
Always be honest (about your skills, experience etc) in your communication with the client. It’s a great principle to live by.
Poor Time Management
I will admit, managing time as a freelancer has be a challenging task for yours truly. I have learnt to balance work and personal life through trial and error, and so far so good, I think I’m doing fairly well considering I catch myself working impossible hours at least once a month.
Let me tell you one thing: managing your time well is the difference between success and failure. If you can’t hack time management, regardless of how you do it, you can’t hack success.
Start tracking your time (I use RescueTime) to put a finger on where your time goes when you’re at your work station. This will allows you to know the approximate time you put in your web design business.
Just to be clear, working alone has it fair share of advantages, which is probably why when starting out, many freelancers run a one-(wo)man show. However, as your career grows, you will need to look into finding help.
If this is not already happening in your day to day life, you will not only design (write code), but also attend meetings, answer calls, balance your books and do a host of other things as a freelancer.
This can be a lot of work for one person especially if you have more than a few clients. Doing too much might actually mean being less productive. You still have a family and friends who love (or need) to be with you. Get a partner or hire someone to help you, something like a PA or something.
Lack in Skill Diversity
While specializing will make you a master of your chosen trade, diversifying your skill set makes you invincible in the job market. If you specialize in a single skill (or technology) you might find yourself out of a gig if the technology is phased out.
Diversification is protection against ignorance. It makes little sense if you know what you are doing. – Warren Buffet
Diversifying your skills does not mean you become a jack of all trades. On the contrary, it means your value as a specialist increases since you’re capable of handling more responsibilities.
You Don’t Sketch
Yes you don’t and you think you are too cool for the sketch board, or app or whatever that is you use to sketch.
I don’t care if you think (or rather believe) you can skip straight to the code, if you skip sketching, you are doing web design wrong.
Sketching is healthy and allows you to correct errors and bring ideas to life early on in the development process.
Sketch, sketch and sketch some more. Keeps you on your edge.
Testing is as important as any other aspect of a web design project. In fact, it is one of the most important steps of web development.
All the same, testing is never fun, which is probably why many web designers inadvertently make this mistake. It’s cumbersome and appears “irrelevant”. You can fix bugs later on after all.
You must text every website you build for a couple of things including browser compatibility, broken links (important), forms and other aspects of the website.
Only after testing (and fixing all issues detected), can you declare a website fit for the World Wide Web.
You Don’t Rest
The life of a freelance web designer can be quite unnerving. If a client is not trying to chew out your face through the phone, another client is trying to schedule a meeting at impossible hours while the third client won’t pay for the third week in a row.
If that’s not the case, a looming deadline is driving you insane because it’s coming up faster than you can complete the project. Or perhaps a client’s site just broke and you can’t remember the last time you slept for six (6) hours straight.
Still, you must market your business and complete a few more projects before the landlord throws you out. You’re clocking the longest of days and you are really putting in work. But you are only human and you can only do so much before you implode.
Overworking is unhealthy and will eat into your personal and professional life.
You need constant breaks from your work. Get away from it all and take a vacation to keep things in perspective. Trust me, the world won’t stop and you always feel better when you come back. Don’t work yourself into exhaustion, that’s just like shooting yourself in the foot. Literally.
What about You?
Which mistakes have you made (or are you making) as a freelance web designer? In the spirit of comradeship, help other web designers avoid them by sharing with us in the comments below!